Das, Hena

Hena Das

Das, Hena (1924-2009) educationist, politician, women leader. Hena Das was born on 12 February 1924 in Sylhet town. Her father Roy Bahadur Satishchandra Datta was a lawyer and her mother was Manorama Datta. Hena Das passed matriculation examination in 1940 from Government Agragami Girls' High School (now Pilot School), Intermediate in 1942, and obtained BA degree in 1947 from Sylhet Mahila College. She took BEd degree from Mymensingh Women Training College in 1959. She took her MA degree in Bangla in 1966 from Dhaka University.

While a student, Hena Das involved herself with the swadeshi movement and later with the Anti-British Liberation Movement and Revolutionary Movement. In 1936 she became a member of the Congress Mahila League, and the year following became a member of the Girls’ Guide. In 1938, she became a member of the All India Student Federation. She established the Surmavalley Girls’ Student Association in 1940. Hena Das formed ward based ‘People Defence Committee’ (Janaraksa Committee) and also had a role in the establishment of self protection (atmaraksa) training and voluntary association.

In 1942, Hena Das got the membership of the Communist Party. In 1945, she formed The Vanubil Self Defense Association of women in Moulavibazar district and aroused political awareness among the women through its activities. She came in close contact with the progressive theater group Gananatya Sangha. In the 1940s, she participated in a twenty days long training program in Bombay organized by the All India Student Communist Forum. She spent ten years of her life in underground after the ban of Communist Party by the Pakistan government. In 1948-1949, Hena Das involved herself in the Nankar Movement in Sylhet and formed the trade union among the tea garden workers.

In 1958, Hena Das came to Dhaka and joined as assistant teacher in Moniza Rahman High School at Gandaria. In 1961, she joined Narayanganj Girls' High School as teacher and continued there till 1964. At the same time, she involved herself with the activities of the Secondary Teachers' Association. In 1965-1968 she served as Head Teacher in Mohakhali Wireless Station School. In 1969, she returned back to Narayanganj Girls' High School. She formed Mahila Sangram Parishad during the mass upsurge of 1969. She was also a member of Bangladesh Mahila Parishad in 1970 and was elected as president of the Parishad in 2000.

In March 1971, Hena Das took part in the non-cooperation movement on behalf of the Teachers' Association. During the Liberation War, she went to Kolkata and formed the 'Udvastu Shiksak Samiti' (Refugee Teachers' Association). The Samiti opened 50 camps, and continued the distribution of relief, shelter of the refugees, medical treatment and education of refugee children with the foreign financial support. After liberation Hena Das came back to Dhaka and started her activities as a leader of the teachers.

On 5 May 1977, Hena Das was arrested for her involvement in the movement of Teachers Association along with 54 teachers, and was released after three days. In 1978, she was elected as general secretary of Bangladesh Teachers' Association. In 1986, she was again arrested for her involvement in the strike of the teachers. She was elected as vice president of Bangladesh Teachers' Association in 1992. Hena Das was one of the active members of Qudrat-e-Khuda Education Commission. She also played a significant role in the movement against military rule of HM Ershad in 1990. She had been a member of the central committee of Bangladesh Communist Party till her death.

Hena Das was a writer. Among her notable books are Ujjwal Smriti, Amar Shiksa O Siksakata Jiban, Smritimoy Dingulo, Nari Andolan O Communist Partyr Bhumika, Smritimoy-71, Pancham Purush, and her autobiography Charpurusher Kahini. She was also a columnist in some newspapers.

Hena Das was awarded Rokeya Gold medal by the government. She received a number of awards and certificates from some socio-cultural organisations including Ghatak Dalal Nirmul Committee and Ahmad Sharif Trust for her manifold socio-political activities.

Hena Das died on 20 July 2009. [Nibedita Das Purkayastha]